SO YOU WANNA TIP-TOE DOWN THE PATH TO THE FAR COUNTRY, DO YOU?

Jesus Did It!

 By: Malcolm Ridgeway

The story Iím about to share is one that has been told millions of times over since the beginning of time on Earth.  Itís the story of a youth who knew the right path to follow at a young age, but decided that a small detour onto the path leading to the Far Country might be worth exploring afterall ... just a little - anyway.

In the Far Country, there is almost always pleasure to be found, if one is willing to pay the price to find it.  Not only just pleasure, but wealth and power can also be found, if one is willing to pay an even greater price.  Yet in the Far Country, you never seem to see these words painted on the side of a building, nor on a billboard for all to read nor heed:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.  Ė Proverbs 14:12

Let's begin my journey to the Far Country.  I was greatly blessed as a young boy.  I accepted Christ at the tender age of nine years old.  I was attending Vacation Bible School during summer break.  I remember being so excited that I rushed home to tell my sister (who is a year younger than me).  In the process, I led her to Christ!  Little did I know then that it was there God birthed something in me that He has been perfecting over the years ... yet through a great deal of pain, as you're about to hear.

That was 42 years ago as of 2009.  Today I am 51 years old, incarcerated in prison and halfway through a 20 year sentence for Voluntary Manslaughter.  A lot has happened over the course of my life to bring me to this point.  God has been with me every step of the way, even when I did things my own selfish and rebellious way. 

Growing up, I always knew that there was something different going on inside me.  I was raised in a Christian home.  I was kind of shy and never really one of the popular people, so I was always trying to fit in.  My mother was a loving, attentive woman who did a lot of things with us.  My father was a hard working man who was hard to talk to.  Whenever we had questions about anything and went to him, the answer most of the time was ďDo it because I said so.Ē  That didnít suffice, so I sought answers from the guys on the block, so you can imagine the counsel I received.  I would hang out with my friends and we got into all sorts of stuff.  For some reason, I just couldnít get away with the things we did.  God was speaking.  I just wasnít listening.

It was mandatory in my home that we attend church on a regular basis.  I enjoyed church for the most part.  I went to Sunday school and it was there that I got rooted and grounded in the Word of God.  The Bible stories and lessons were fascinating to me, and its truths have remained in me to this very day. 

In 1974, I met a beautiful young girl named Deborah.  She is a year younger than me.  I knew the day I met her that she would one day be my wife. I was so confident that I ran home and told my mother so.  Deborah also grew up in a Christian home with saved folk all around her.  We were both inexperienced in a lot of things, so we both shared a lot of firsts together. 

In my senior year of high school I began to drink and smoke weed.  Deborah and I would spend a lot of time together but she never messed with any of that stuff.  I never got high around her.  Months later she became pregnant with our first child.  I graduated from high school and went away to college on a baseball scholarship.  I believe this was a major turning point in my life.

When I left for school Deborah was about six months pregnant and it was tough.  When her father found out that she was pregnant, he put her out of their home.  She went to live with one of her older sisters.  Needless to say, she didnít want me to leave.  We were both young and were not prepared for this great responsibility.  It had always been my dream to become a professional baseball player, so I was determined that I was not going to pass up this opportunity.  My thinking was that this would be a stepping stone to our future together.   

Once away at school and out from under any kind of authority, I went absolutely wild.  I went to my classes and also practiced hard, but I partied even harder.  I was exposed to so many things.  Book knowledge wasnít the only knowledge I obtained.  Drugs and women were the things that attracted me the most.  The drugs loosened me up and made me more out-going.  And the women happened to out-number the men eight to one, and probably experiencing that same freedom that I was, were there for the taking.  I was partying like a rock star and back home Deborah was catching hell. 

Pregnant, in her senior year of high school, and not being able to live at home was tough to say the least.  I would come home for the weekends when I could.  It was a six hour drive from school to home.  Our first child was born on Thanksgiving Day of that year (1975) and I was there for her birth.  I returned to school after the break and continued where I left off.

After a year and a half of playing school, it became apparent that I wasnít going to make it as a professional baseball player.  And at the rate I was going, graduation didnít seem possible either.  All of that pain and sacrifice for nothing.  A totally wasted opportunity. 

I finally came home and Deborah and I got an apartment.  Shortly after that and still unmarried, we had our second child.  I got a job and we began to try to make a life for ourselves.  After the baby was born and was about six or seven months old, Deborah began to work also.  We should have had it made but I was still wilding out.

In 1979, I went to prison along with my brother, for aiding and abetting in a Second Degree Murder.  By that time Deborah and I had moved into a house and we had four children.  They ranged in age from five years to three and half months.  This was a devastating time in our life.  Times were hard.  Very hard!  It would take me too long to detail that ten years of hell.  So suffice it to say that God was faithful and he made a way for her and the children to survive.  He kept me as well because this was a time when prison was rough.  Guys stabbing and killing each other on a regular basis.  I was 24 years old; new to this kind of lifestyle, and scared to death.  However, God was with me every step of the way and brought me through ten years without hurt or injury.

I came home in 1981, determined to straighten up.  I joined a church and we began going there as a family. 

Around 1986, I was introduced to cocaine and started smoking it.  I really enjoyed the high.  So after I came home and got off of parole, I began to dabble with it again.  I was a minister and was really trying to do the right thing, but the pull was strong.  I had different places in the city I could go to get away from the people that knew me.  And eventually my stays away from home grew longer and longer until I was just gone.  I had a beautiful wife who loved me.  But I - like the prodigal son - chose instead the ďFar Countryí and all its pleasures. 

My parents, my siblings; everyone would come to my rescue every time I messed up.  They begged me to get help but I kept telling myself I could quit on my own.  My Dad always taught us a man wasnít a man if he couldnít stop doing something that wasnít right or good for him.  He quit smoking cigarettes overnight.  But all of us who have ever been involved in drugs know thatís a different kind of beast.

I was addicted and I knew I couldnít kick it on my own.  I was out there!  Gone from my family and everyone that loved me.  Every now and then Iíd call home when I knew no one was there and leave a message to let them know I was alive.  I didnít want to talk to them because I didnít want to hear ďitĒ anymore.  I didnít want them to see me because I had lost so much weight and was looking bad, and I just couldnít stand for them to see me like that.  Pride goes before a fall and haughty spirit before destruction.  My wife let me know later that all it would have taken was one phone call and she would have come and gotten me, no matter what condition I was in.  Thatís real love! 

While in the Far Country, all sorts of things were happening. Iíve been shot at three times all at once.  Iíve been in houses that were fire bombed.  Iíve been in places where everyone was beaten and I alone was allowed to leave.  Iíve been caught in police raids and released.  Iíve done things to people that I am not proud of.  My motherís friends would ask her, ďArenít you afraid that Malcolm is doing all those horrible things we hear about on the news?Ē and sheíd tell them, ďNo, Iím not worried because there are some things that Malcolm just wonít do,Ē and she was right.  I was a dope fiend with a conscience, by the grace of God. 

During this time I had people in my family die; my father-in-law died and I wasnít there.  My wife had cancer and the Lord healed her.  She has been cancer free for 20 years now, and I wasnít there. I was a mess!

All the while I was in turmoil, I knew that I was doing something that I shouldnít be doing and I couldnít stop.  I was addicted to cocaine and the women -- the two went hand in hand with me.  I didnít want one without the other. 

I began to cry out to God to stop me from doing what I was doing.

One night I was in a hotel room with three or four girls and we were getting high and just talking.  And they were trying to figure out why a nice guy like me was caught up like I was.  I would wonder the same thing about them.  So we began to tell our stories.  When I told them about my Christian upbringing and being a minister, they began to laugh and say, ďNaw Ė not YOU?!Ē  So I had them look in the drawer.  You know - most every hotel has a Bible in it and they handed it to me.  I began to minister to them.  Thatís right!  We had a plate of cocaine in the middle of the bed and I was reading the Word of God to them Ė telling them about Godís love.  And then we went to doing our thing.  To this day I donít know what effect that night had on any of them.  Thatís up to God.  Iím just glad I did what God placed in my spirit to do that night.

Shortly afterwards I got into it with a guy and one thing led to another.  It led to a problem that caused him and a friend to jump on me and almost beat me to death.  During the altercation I shot and killed the friend and the other guy ran off. 

I was on the run for a couple of weeks and during that time I had dope, but it just wouldnít get me high anymore.

One night I was in a hotel room and the police kicked in the door.  They slammed me on the bed and put guns to my head.  When it happened, I wasnít sure I was ready then either.  It was a scary time, but the Spirit of God came upon me.  I heard a voice say to me, ďItís over, Son.  Iíve got you now.Ē

I spent a year in the county jail fighting my case.  And when I first got locked up, I called my wife to tell her.  She already knew because there had been a manhunt for me.  But I began to tell her how I was going to get myself together and come home to her.  She informed me that in my absence she had divorced me.  I was devastated! 

I was charged with first degree murder, which carried a life sentence, so this was a double whammy.  But I didnít despair.  A country jail volunteer came to visit me and we talked, and he gave me a Bible.  

I began to pray and read that Bible about eight to ten hours a day for a year.  I quit worrying about my situation and sought after God.  I mean really sought after God!  Before long I was teaching Bible study in there.  Praying with the guys, and they were being found not guilty on their cases or their cases were being dismissed.  Our wing was known as the ďGo home wing.Ē  Everyone else was going home except me.

My mom would visit each week, bless her heart, and then one day I got a surprise visit from my wife Deborah.  After she and I had visited awhile, she told me that we were no longer married.  That she had divorced me and that we would never be husband and wife again.  She then told me that she loved me, and that she would always be in my corner.  As much as I hated hearing about us being divorced, that last revelation gave me a ray of hope.  I was still madly in love with her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  I hoped for the opportunity to redeem myself with her and my children.

I continued to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  I went through the trial and was found guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter.  I feel it should have been Justifiable Homicide.  Anyway the sentence guidelines were 0-15 years, and I was feeling pretty confident that I would receive around five years.  I was charged as a second Habitual Offender because of my prior conviction.  The Judge used that to enhance my sentence and gave me 20 years. 

Again I was floored and couldnít understand it.  The Lord had been showing me all kinds of things in dreams and visions.  Preaching to large crowds, and being with my family, now this? TWENTY YEARS?!  My wife and kids were absolutely devastated.  Again the Lord spoke to me and said, ďI told you Iíve got you, didnít I?Ē  So I had to trust what He said.

As of 2009, for 11 years, Iíve been walking strong with the Lord.  I didnít understand why I had to get 20 years, but I also honestly knew that I wasnít ready to go back to the streets.  Not even after being in the County Jail for almost a year, I knew I was not going to return to the Far Country that stole my life and stole the joy of those who loved and supported me.  I remember that when I was on the streets Ö I asked God to stop me Ö and He did.  We canít ask God to do something, and then tell Him how to do it. 

It was good that I have been afflicted, because now I know who God is and how important He is to my life.  I have no hope without Him.  He continues to show Himself strong on me and my familyís behalf, though I have many, many regrets for making so many foolish choices in my younger years.

If God chooses to place this testimony in the hands of just one young person who is being, or will be tempted, to travel to the Far Country like I did Ö to taste of the pleasures of sin for a season that will not only end up destroying so many precious years off their life, but can literally lead them straight to hell Ö not to mention all the anguish it will cause parents and brothers and sisters and relatives and friends Ö then it will have been worth it all in writing it and letting it go out on the Internet.

In spite of the difficulties and challenges that come with prison life, God has done many awesome things over these years.  Too many to count, but I will tell you about a couple of them:

Four years ago I was transferred to Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon, Michigan.  When I arrived there, one of the first people I saw was one of the guys who had beat me when I caught this case.  Understand that it should never occur that two known enemies ever be housed in the same prison.  Prior to going there, I was an Elder at another prison.  I have a Christian brother there and we used to talk about what would happen if I ever saw that guy again.  At that time I didnít think that I was ready for such a confrontation.  When it happened I wasnít sure I was ready then either.  So I went to my room and began to pray about it.  I wanted to hurt him really bad for what he had done to me.  And now it would be just him and me.  At the other prison I had told my friend that if I ever saw the guy, I hope that God would give me the strength to love him, forgive him, ask him to forgive me, and lead him to Christ. 

Then God told me, ďNow get out of this room and be about my business.Ē 

It was time to lock down for the night, so the next day me and that guy went outside and talked for three hours.  We talked about the entire situation.  When we finished, we asked each other for forgiveness. I told him about the Lord and how He had prepared me for our meeting.  He said that if God could do all that Ö then he wanted God to be the Lord of his life.  Right then we prayed and he accepted Christ!

We continued to fellowship and study Godís Word together, and we remain friends to this day.  This is a miracle, because in the world we live in, the street code says that if someone does something to you Ö there must be some get back.  They know nothing about the forgiving power of our God. 

I am very grateful that this took place, because had it not, when we would both had been released from prison one day and saw each other Ö there is no telling what may have transpired.

As I continued to praise God and do the things He has called me to do - preaching and teaching His Word - being a minister of reconciliation - He has continued to put my life back together. 

Remember my wife telling me that we would never again be husband and wife?  Well, since the county jail, she has remained faithful in my life.  She understands that she divorced me hastily, even though she had biblical grounds to do so.  She says that I am, and has always been, the love of her life and the man that God intended for her to marry. 

I quit trying to win her back, but instead focused on my relationship with God.  She was doing the same thing.  We always said that if it was Godís will for us to be together, then He would make it happen.  As God continued to work on both of us, we began to grow closer and closer together. 

He was showing me my shortcomings as a husband and what was required of me, according to His word.  The closer we both got to God Ö the closer we got to each other. 

Today we are closer than we have ever been in our life together.  I have never considered her to be my ex-wife.  Today reconciliation has taken place, and we are waiting for my release so that we can be remarried.  My relationship with my children is awesome.  Iíve had four grandchildren born while Iíve been incarcerated and my children have made sure that they know who their grandfather is, and Iím so blessed to see and talk to them often -- all to the glory of God, because I KNOW He is the one who has brought this all about.  He has been so merciful to me.

It says in Proverbs 18:22: ďHe who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.Ē  And also in Matthew 19:6, ďWhat God has joined together let no man put asunder.Ē  My life has been a confirmation of those two passages of scripture.  I continue to pursue my release through the courts.  I believe faith without works is dead.  But I trust God.  I know that everything that I have been through in my life has made me the man that I am today.  I am convinced that God will continue to perfect that which concerns me.  Everything has not always gone the way that Iíd like, and even now my family and I face some very difficult hurdles.  Even in all of that, I know God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I can ask or think.  How much longer I will have to be incarcerated is entirely up to Him.  I believe He knows how much my family needs me out there, but even in my absence from them, He keeps on making a way.  My wife and I trust God with all of our hearts, so all we can do is remain faithful to that which He has entrusted us to do, and let Him take care of the rest.

Although my life has not been what you would call a peaceful journey following Godís will for my life Ö God has been with me every step of the way, in spite of my selfishness and stubborn rebellion.  My Pastor always used to say, ďGod is a keeper - if you want to be kept.Ē  Well, Iíve got news for him.  God is a keeper even when you donít want to be kept.  Once we give our life to Christ and mean it, we belong to Him.  He says that all that the Father ďhasĒ given to me will come to me and I ďwillĒ give them eternal life.  That he will not lose one of us, and that nothing shall be able to pluck us out of his hand (John 6:35-40).  I am a living witness to that.

A lot of people may say that had I died out there in the Far Country, I would be in hell today.  All I know is that like the Apostle Peter, there has never been a time in my life when I didnít love the Lord and knew that I was called to a higher calling.  I am here today.  Alive and well.  Saved and sanctified and full of His Spirit, and itís all because of Him.  I canít take credit for any of it, and I thank Him each and every day. 

I encourage anyone who reads these words to try Jesus.  He is the real deal.  No matter what you have done in your life, God can take your mess and turn it into a glorious message that can change othersí lives as well.  You canít go wrong with Him.  He is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.  And He is the ONLY way.

In closing, I want to leave you with one of my favorite passages of scripture from the Bible.  My reason for doing so is because it has given me so much hope and encouragement, and I want it to give others hope in that no matter what they may have done Ė no matter how hopeless life seems for them Ė no matter how many bad choices they may have made in the past, God can turn our mess into one glorious message Ö if we will only give Him first place in everything of our life:

And we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29)


PLEASE HELP SHARE THE BEST NEWS GOD HAS FOR EVERY PERSON!

"And this gospel of the kingdom [Jesus died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).

Consider how many children in "all the nations" have never heard YET what Jesus accomplished for THEM at the cross? PLEASE HELP SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS TO THE LITTLE CHILDREN!

To help us share the Best News every person needs to hear on this planet, randomly click FOR JESUS on just three (3) of the JESUS DID IT! links below. It will take just a few moments of your time. Please - thatís all you are asked to do. God will reward you! (Of course, be highly encouraged to forward one or more of these video clips to those who may have never heard what Jesus did for them on the cross ... or may need to be re-reminded).

JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!    JESUS DID IT!

 

JESUS DID IT!  - or -  JESUS DID IT!

(Please paste one of the above links onto your Facebook page - website - blog - video; etc.)

Let God Use Your Salvation Testimony!


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SO YOU WANNA TIP-TOE DOWN THE PATH
 TO THE FAR COUNTRY, DO YOU?


Dear Reader - are you at peace with God?  If not, you can be.  Do you know what awaits you when you die?  You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain.  Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!).  Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God?  We plead with you ... please don't make such a tragic mistake.

To get to know God; to be at peace with God; to have your sins forgiven; to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity; to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help understand the importance of being reconciled to God.  What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one.  Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life.


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